If Roswell girls basketball coach Fernando Sanchez was on a game show, it would be titled “Life or Death.” By the way he was working his team and the red Powerade, one would have thought this game was for his life. Sanchez’s intensity and body English on each possession the Lady Coyotes had was enough to get them a 42-33 victory over Los Alamos Friday night at the Coyote Den.
“We’re obviously happy to get the win,” Sanchez said. “Great job by the girls to make some clutch plays late. I thought Tori Sandoval was huge. She didn’t play much but came in about the sixth-minute of the fourth quarter and then plays about five minutes straight and plays light outs.”
Roswell (2-5) fell behind 4-0 against the Lady Hilltoppers and battled back to tie the game at 7-7 to end the first quarter. Much improvement to Roswell as their traps and press are starting to have an effect on other teams as they turned Los Alamos over 28 times.
Roswell was able to get the ball into the low post to Makenzie Tarin. She was able to catch the ball down low, gather herself and lower a shoulder and go up strong as she added a three-point play as the Lady Coyotes took a decisive 24-17 lead and never looked back with 3:53 to play in the third quarter. Tarin had 10 points.
“We’re still struggling to score at times,” Sanchez said. “I thought we should have been up by 10-12 points in the first half. The girls did a good job defensively and I’m happy for them.”
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Roswell’s juniors Clarissa Vega and Janae Faust held it down on the inside on both ends of the floor, as they scored and created rebounds and block shots. They were also able to kick the ball out to a hot Jalen Baca, who led all RHS scorers with 12 points, some from the outside, but she did most of her damage driving the ball to the basket and getting fouled.
This team is improving rapidly as the season moves on. This is the Lady Coyotes’ second win of the season as they beat Artesia last week, 39-30. For them to be effective and play the way they want to this season, they will have to take the open shot.
There were numerous open shots and no one would take them. If they will do that, it will give Faust, Vega and Tarin room to operate down low and they can play inside out like Sanchez wants them to.
“I think that Adriana Carroll hitting that three-pointer was huge,” Sanchez said. “Mireya Grajeda coming in hitting two-3s was even bigger. The individual effort that helped us get to this win was huge for us. We’ve only had these girls for three weeks.”
These Lady Coyotes are getting better than when they first stepped on the court and they are forging an identity. One of the big things is they have to have fun, make mistakes and keep playing. Don’t worry about making a mistake or being pulled, just play and enjoy being a part of the team.
This Roswell team has the makings of a hungry aggressive team that can win some games, just by hustling and being aggressive like they were Friday night. If they will continue to go inside out and they can develop a couple of players to knock down the open shot and run when they have numbers, Roswell will be the team no one wants to play come district.
“I like the way we played tonight,” Sanchez said. “I like our defense. We still have to find some easy baskets, but I like the way our team played.”
Roswell returns to the Coyote Den at 7 p.m. tonight, as Lovington comes calling.
Gateway boys and girls
By Tom A. Ruiz
Special to RDR Sports
MESCALERO – The Gateway Christian Lady Warriors had a sparkling early-season record of 4-1, that was until they ran into a buzzsaw in Mescalero Thursday night at the Mescalero boys’ and girls’ basketball tournament. The Mescalero Lady Chiefs (6-0), the No. 1 team in 3A never allowed Gateway to score double digits in any of the four quarters for a 59-19 win.
Gateway scored seven points in the second quarter, the most of any period in the game. They put up five each in the second and third and only one goal in the first. The leading scorer for Gateway was MJ Stephens who pumped in 9.
Mescalero raced out to a 10-2 first-quarter lead. The only bucket for Gateway came from Hannah Lilley at the 3:33 mark of the quarter.
In that quarter, the Mescalero half-court trap forced Gateway into five turnovers and it didn’t help matters that Gateway shot one of eight from the field.
Lady Warriors’ coach Holly Tipton said, “They (Mescalero) were all over us. We couldn’t take care of the ball and we paid for it.”
Mescalero coach Elmer Chaves, on the other hand, was not at all pleased by the performance of his team’s defense in that opening stanza. “We didn’t convert all of those turnovers into points. We got lazy and I didn’t like it. We should have scored 20 points at the end of the quarter, not just 10.”
If that sounds like a coach who’s coaching with a chip on his shoulder, it’s because this group of Lady Chiefs have been to the state tournament in volleyball and basketball the last two seasons and both times came up short.
With a record now of 4-2, Gateway hopes to continue to get better. “I am confident that we will,” said Tipton. “My girls worked hard and played with a lot of heart,” she added.
The Lady Warriors will have to get up early today and load up on breakfast burritos for the 90-minute trip to Mescalero and an 8 a.m. game against Capitan, who were beaten by Magdalena on Thursday.
When asked what she wants to see from her team in today’s game and on Saturday, and during the rest of the non-conference schedule before district, Coach Tipton replied, “In games like this, we need to take care of the ball to stay close.”
But then again, Gateway may not face a team of this caliber again this season. “You only get better, that’s why you play them,” Tipton said.
The other teams on the girls’ side of the tourney are Ft. Sumner, Alamo Navajo, Capitan, Quemado, Magdalena and Jal.
The Gateway boys, 3-3, also were in action at the tournament but lost to Ft. Sumner, 49-36 in the first round Thursday.
For more basketball scores from local teams, please see page B2.